Ryan Seacrest to replace Pat Sajak on 'Wheel of Fortune,' beating out Vanna White, Maggie Sajak and more

Sajak announced this month that he will retire in 2024 after more than 40 years hosting the iconic game show.

Ryan Seacrest hosts the 2022 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on Sept. 23 in Las Vegas. (Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for iHeartRadio)
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Pat Sajak's announcement this month that the next season of Wheel of Fortune would be his last was surprising, even though he'd teased for years that he'd soon retire from the TV staple he's starred on since 1981. The revelation just two weeks later that Ryan Seacrest will step into the job isn't.

Seacrest is a veteran host of shows including American Idol and Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve. He departed morning show Live With Kelly and Ryan, which he had hosted with Kelly Ripa for nearly six years, in April.

On Tuesday, he reacted to his new job, alongside letter-turner Vanna White: "I'm truly humbled to be stepping into the footsteps of the legendary Pat Sajak. I can say, along with the rest of America, that it's been a privilege and pure joy to watch Pat and Vanna on our television screens for an unprecedented 40 years, making us smile every night and feel right at home with them. Pat, I love the way you've always celebrated the contestants and made viewers at home feel at ease. I look forward to learning everything I can from you during this transition."

He added, "Many people probably don't know this but one of my first jobs was hosting a little game show called Click for Merv Griffin 25 years ago so this is truly a full circle moment for me and I'm grateful to Sony for the opportunity. I can't wait to continue the tradition of spinning the wheel and working alongside the great Vanna White."

Sajak himself granted his approval, a day after the confirmation of his successor.

Bloomberg's Lucas Shaw, who was the first to report Sajak's departure, had tweeted within hours that Seacrest was in the running.

"One candidate to replace Pat Sajak? @RyanSeacrest,” Shaw wrote. “The host has been talking to the producers of Wheel of Fortune. Some sources say he's the frontrunner. Others say he is just one of many interested."

Seacrest's casting is the opposite of what J. Chris Newberg, who has produced game shows including The Chase and Beat Shazam, had hoped for.

"I don't know what type of person should [host next], but if they are smart, they will take the same approach as the other Merv Griffin show," Newberg told Yahoo Entertainment when Sajak retired, referring to Jeopardy!, "and have a bunch of celebs till they see who clicks and is liked most by the audience. Likability is key in game show."

Like many viewers, he proclaimed that splitting up the pairing of Sajak and White would be "the end of an era."

For what it's worth, the oddsmakers at BetOnline had predicted that White herself would be the next to take the job, with 3-1 odds, while Ryan Seacrest (9-2) and Maggie Sajak (5-1) were the runners-up.

Vanna White, Maggie Sajak, Ryan Seacrest and Whoopi Goldberg are all possible replacements for retiring host Pat Sajak. (Photo: Getty Images)

Here's a rundown of a few others who had been discussed — and who wanted to be the new host:

Vanna White

Vanna White has been on
Vanna White has been on Wheel of Fortune since 1983. (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Race To Erase MS)

White appeared alongside Pat Sajak when the syndicated version of the show premiered in September 1983. Since then, she helped contestants uncover the correct phrase and chatted with Sajak at the top and bottom of thousands of episodes. She'd also taken on main hosting duties at times.

In December 2019 and January 2020, White filled in for Sajak when he underwent an emergency surgery, but she went back to her post when he returned.

She had a heartfelt response to his retirement news: "When we started @WheelofFortune who could have imagined we'd still be at it 41 seasons? I couldn't be happier to have shared the stage with you for all these years with one more to come. Cheers to you, @patsajak!"

Game show producer Newberg, for one, would have approved of White stepping up to the show's top spot.

"If Vanna wants it, zero people would have a problem with it," he said immediately after Sajak's retirement announcement. "But also, again, just like Jeopardy!, new blood is cool. I'd like to see someone funny and quick witted. Whoopi [Goldberg] would be exciting, but I fear it may become too political."

However, Puck reported June 23 that White was negotiating a new contract with the show, because she hadn't received a pay raise in 18 years. White, whose salary of $3 million a year was reportedly a fifth of Sajak's, had reportedly hired "an aggressive new lawyer." With Seacrest's statement referring to "working alongside the great Vanna White," it seems she will be back in a letter-turning capacity after Sajak's departure.

Maggie Sajak

Pat's daughter, who joined the show as social correspondent in 2021, providing backstage digital content, had remained enthusiastic about Wheel in the face of her father's departure.

"It's so much fun working with my dad," she commented on social media, "and we're looking forward to even more fun in Season 41."

The younger Sajak has turned the letters, too, as she filled in for White in May, when White was a contestant on a celebrity version of their game.

Whoopi Goldberg

The longtime host of daytime's The View quickly offered herself up as a candidate. It happened when Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings appeared on her current show on June 13.

When he was asked to comment on the matter, he didn't give a real answer, and brought up Jeopardy!'s own "succession crisis" in 2021 following the death of its own longtime host, Alex Trebek.

But Goldberg's co-host Joy Behar quickly volunteered, "Whoopi wants the job."

Goldberg piped up, "I want that job. I think it would be tons of fun." (It happened at 4:09 in the clip below.)

And Goldberg is familiar with game shows, having served as both a producer and the center square on Hollywood Squares from 1998 to 2004.

Whoopi Goldberg appears on
Whoopi Goldberg appears on Hollywood Squares. (Photo: King World Prod./Courtesy: Everett Collection)

The View co-host Sarah Haines is an example of someone who sits at the table and hosts a game show. She's moderated ABC primetime's The Chase since its 2021 debut.

Andy Cohen

Andy Cohen hosts Bravo's
Andy Cohen hosts Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" in Season 20. (Photo: Charles Sykes/Bravo via Getty Images)

The executive producer of the Real Housewives franchise is best known for hosting TV reunions and the nightly Bravo show What What Happens Live, but he said he'd be up for standing behind the giant wheel.

"Not only is a game show the thing that I haven't done yet, but that is the premiere game show," he told Us Weekly in June. "It's really fun." He added that replacing Sajak would be a "dream, dream job."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story was published June 14, 2023.